BALI HA’I (song)

Bali Ha’i

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Song from South Pacific
Published 1949
Writer(s) Oscar Hammerstein II
Composer(s) Richard Rodgers

“Bali Ha’i”, also spelled “Bali Hai”, is a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. The name refers to a mystical island, visible on the horizon but not reachable, and was originally inspired by Espiritu Santo’s sighting of Ambae island in Vanuatu, where author James Michener was stationed in World War II.

In the musical, Bali Ha’i is a volcanic island within sight of the island on which most of the action takes place. The troops think of Bali Ha’i as an exotic paradise, but it is off-limits — except to officers. The matriarch of Bali Ha’i, Bloody Mary, conducts a lot of business with the troops, and she meets Lt. Joseph Cable right after he arrives. She sings to him her mysterious song “Bali Ha’i”, with its haunting orchestral accompaniment, because she wants to entice him to visit her island. She doesn’t tell him that she wants him to meet, and fall in love with, her young daughter, Liat.

Cover versions

Several versions of the showtune made the bestsellers list in 1949. Perry Como’s version was the most successful at #5. Other versions appearing on the charts were by Paul Weston and his Orchestra (#10), Bing Crosby (#12), Peggy Lee (#13), and Frank Sinatra (#18). Later, Harry James released a version on his 1955 album, Jazz Session (Columbia CL 669); Andy Williams released a version on his 1958 album, Andy Williams Sings Rodgers and Hammerstein; and Sergio Franchi included this song on his 1965 RCA Victor tribute to The Songs of Richard Rodgers.